US President Donald Trump reportedly demanded greater involvement in the drafting of executive orders and has asked to be looped in far earlier in the process, in an attempt to curtail the authority of his chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
Trump was angry that he not been “fully briefed on the details” of his executive order appointing Bannon to the National Security Council, The New York Times reported Sunday, indicating Trump hadn’t read the text of the measure. The discovery reportedly angered Trump more than the backlash caused by his administration’s Muslim immigration curbs.
On January 28, Trump signed the Presidential Memorandum: Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council in which he appointed “the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist,” i.e., Bannon to the NSC.
In an unprecedented move, Bannon is included in the Principals Committee as a permanent member, whereas the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are no longer permanent members but “shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”
There was a huge outcry following the appointment, including a letter to Trump from 50 House Democrats demanding Bannon’s removal from the committee.
“Stephen Bannon’s lack of foreign policy experience and former leadership of a website closely aligned with the anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic alt-right should disqualify him from serving in such a high-level national security post,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY in a statement accompanying the letter.
It now appears that president was unaware of the authority he was giving to his chief strategist.
Trump took his first break after the chaotic and unorthodox first two weeks of his term, accompanied by Bannon and Reince Priebus on a weekend to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. While there he asked Priebus to adhere to a more traditional White House protocol that would see him and others kept more informed regarding executive orders, similar to that of previous administrations.
“Mr. Priebus has told Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon that the administration needs to rethink its policy and communications operation in the wake of embarrassing revelations that key details of the orders were withheld from agencies, White House staff and Republican congressional leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan,” the Times reported.
Priebus also reportedly drew up a 10-point plan for the release of new initiatives that requires signoff from communications aides.
Thus far, decisions have been made by a small circle of advisers, some of whom have little political experience, with Bannon and White House policy director, Stephen Miller, stepping into the vacuum and quickly gaining almost unlimited power.
“We are moving big and we are moving fast,” Bannon was quoted as saying about the administration’s early days, adding, “We didn’t come here to do small things.”
The former conservative media executive’s fingerprints are on virtually every significant move made by Trump, from Trump’s sweeping order to suspend the country’s refugee program and block visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“The president deserves better than the rollout he got on the immigration executive order,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, formerly part of Trump’s team before being ousted as transition adviser, told The Times. “The fact is that he’s put forward a policy that, in my opinion, is significantly more effective than what he had proposed during the campaign, yet because of the botched implementation, they allowed his opponents to attack him by calling it a Muslim ban.”
“Steve’s the main ideological mover of the administration. He’s the chief ideological officer and he has a strong point of view,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a friend of the president. “I think the bond is their world view.”
Bannon is a former banker who transitioned into a career as an ultranationalist propagandist, culminating in his becoming a top adviser to the Trump campaign.
Before joining Trump’s campaign last summer, Bannon helmed Breitbart News, a site that is stridently pro-Israel, but which also has featured white nationalists and which Bannon once described as a platform for the “alt-right,” a loose-knit alliance that includes within it anti-Semites as well as right-wing Jews.
JTA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.